Cindie Petersen hasn’t missed a beat as group fitness instructor at the Greater Johnstown Community YMCA.
She has been teaching classes at the YMCA for more than 30 years. Her schedule includes SilverSneakers, yoga, “cardio boom” and a circuit class.
After earning a degree in speech pathology from Penn State, she returned to school in her 40s to earn a master’s degree in health, physical education, recreation and dance from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the 1980s.
“My interest – not a vocation, but my interest – was in dance,” said Petersen, 74. “I was always taking dancing lessons. My instructor at the time said she had adult women approach her wanting to do a dance-type class but not for performance ... particularly ballet, for more of a movement, balance, stretching – that type of thing. She asked me if I would be interested in teaching it, because she did not have time.”
Petersen sought training so that she could present herself as a true fitness professional, she said.
She continued to work as a speech pathologist while also teaching classes. She said she retired recently from speech pathology, but has plans to continue gaining certifications as a fitness instructor.
She is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as group exercise instructor. And until the COVID-19 pandemic came along, she was scheduled to earn certification as a personal trainer.
Health and fitness
The way group fitness classes are taught has evolved over the years, she said.
“Everybody knew Jane Fonda as the model in the ’80s – big hair, leg warmers,” Petersen said. “You showed up and you jumped around the room.
“That’s what a lot of instructors did. There was a lot of bad instruction going on.”
But over time, programs were developed to educate instructors.
“A true instructor is interested in each individual in the class,” she said.
“Each class has a different level of intensity and emphasis.
“They are interested in the health, education in wellness and the fitness component. And nowadays, the consumer is also better educated as to what they should have and what they should be receiving. They won’t stand for stupid instructors.”
Petersen and her husband, David, moved to Johnstown in 1970 from Erie, for his job and for her to go to Penn State for her degree.
They have been married for 53 years and often exercise together, she said.
‘Blessed to have her’
Quan Britt, who settled into his position as program director of the Greater Johnstown Community YMCA in May, said the organization is fortunate to have Petersen.
“She has an ability to make members comfortable as they walk through the doors,” he said, “whether they are a part of her class or just passing her in the hallways. She has a demeanor everyone attracts to.”
Britt also noted that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Petersen was at the YMCA doing extra work, cleaning and making the facility better and safer.
“That speaks volumes for the person she is,” Britt siad. “We are extremely blessed to have her here.
“Her knowledge, ability to reach people, being transparent and able to adjust on the fly, she is an all-around awesome person to be around.”